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How to pick the right gym for you. (The athlete)

In order to be athletic you have to train athletic. Training at or near your 1RM all the time doesn’t develop explosiveness or athleticism.   While maximal strength is important and is a prerequisite for power as an athlete I would not stay in that phase for too long. Instead spend a good amount of time around 60-80 % of your 1RM and think about exploding out of the amortization phase of a lift into the concentric phase. I would also choose exercises that allow you to display athleticism in a coordinated manner. Things like cleans, snatches, kettlebell swings, box jumps, plyometrics, agility work, and clapping pushups allow you to be fast while using your body in an efficient and coordinated way. These exercise because they are fast and explosive also require a great deal of core stability, which translates into on-field movements.

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As an athlete I would look for the following things when choosing a gym.

  1. Open Space: The more cluttered the gym is with fixed range of motion machines the less likely it is to produce any sort of athleticism. You are not in physical therapy. You are training for sport performance. Agility work is a skill that can be taught and developed and you need space to work on it.
  1. Qualified coaches: CSCS is the top of the line when it comes to programming and exercise selection. Pick up any magazine or read any article on sports performance and the writer is most likely to have the CSCS credentials after his name.
  1. Bumper plates: In order to attempt cleans and snatches you have to be willing to fail at an attempt. If you are always worried about dropping the weights you will never get out of your comfort zone and never grow.
  1. Kettlebells: The Kettlebell is one of my favorite pieces of equipment. Give me a kettlebell and I can give you a total body workout that will have you out of breath and lying in a pool of your own sweat.
  1. Energy: If the gym feels like a place where people are miserable you don’t want to be there. The gym should be fun. People should be pushing themselves and each other. There should be music and there should be a palpable energy inside the walls.
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First day of school

Tomorrow is the first day for teachers to report to school. I was asked by my department head to give a quick presentation on core training for students. There will be elementary teachers as well as the High School physical education teachers present. Here is what I came up with. I plan on handing this out and doing active demonstrations.

Core Training for physical education classes.

Perhaps you have heard of Core training but are not completely sure what it means. Maybe you heard it in a magazine or you heard it in a gym. Maybe some of your students use the term very loosely.

Before we learn what is “the core” let’s learn what it is not. Core is not a newer term for abs. While your students may use core and abs interchangeably they are not the same thing. The core is made up of a group of muscles that all work together to stabilize your body during movement. They allow for a seamless transition between your upper to lower body. The Core muscles are generally located in the middle of your body and mostly acting on your spine to help brace your body in an upright position. (Think good posture).
These muscles consist of:
Stomach:
Rectus Abdominus
Transverse Abdominus
Obliques

Back:
Erector Spinae
Scapula movers ( group of muscles) to a lesser extent.
Hips:
Ilio Psoas
Gluteus Maximus
Gluteus Minimus
Hamstrings to a lesser extent

Traditional ab exercises involve the movement and contraction of the abdominal muscles by flexing and extending the lumbar spine to create tension. Think of a good old-fashioned sit up or crunch. While this might develop your “six pack abs” It leaves out most of those other muscles we just mentioned. Also, the lumbar spine is not meant to have a great deal of flexion and extension. This promotes a kyphotic spine position. Unless you want to look like Quasimodo then this is a bad thing.

A good portion of a core training program involves not mobility but stability. The ability of the core muscles to stabilize when gravity, our own movement, or external forces attempt to create imbalances. Think about a defensive lineman in football being blocked. While he is pushing and grabbing with his hands and arms it is really his hips, glutes, and abs which need to brace to prevent being pushed backwards. There is no abdominal contraction but instead a bracing of the transverse abdominal that initiates the athletic movement. In core training resisting force is equally as important as creating it.

How does core training help the non athlete or average person? Well all of those core muscles create a tight brace for you lower back. Think of an old-time corset. A strong core helps with posture which can prevent lower back pain and injuries. It can also help you with balance and coordination. This can come in handy whether you are swinging a golf club or you are doing chores around the house.

Core work for older kids: 7th – 12th grade

Some examples of exercises that work the core without any equipment:

Plank:
Hands and toes
Forearms and toes
Incline or Decline
1 arm or leg on knees or toes
side planks
rotational planks

Glute bridges:
Marching
Double leg
Single leg w/ isometric hold

Abs:
Rollouts
Pilates Holds
Pikes
Knee tucks
Hip circles

Back:
Birddogs
Supermans
Alternating swimmer

Equipment that could be used for station work:
Stability ball
Rubber tubing
Bosu ball

For younger kids: 2nd to 8th grade

Elementary school:

Some tips to tell if a child has poor core strength:
1. poor posture in class
2. shifts in seat excessively
3. would rather lie down to watch TV then sit up
4. leans on hands a lot. (head or arms)
5. falls often. (balance issues)

Tight Rope:
Have kids walk on a line or tape. Heel to toe.. You can increase the difficulty by having them balance a bean bag on their head. You can also make the line curve rather then be straight. For added difficulty you can add more obstacles with instructions while still balancing a bean bag on their head. (Bend over and touch a cone) at certain points on the rope.

Crab walk races:

Wheelbarrow races

Plank holds:

Chair Leg lifts:
Have students lift both legs and eventually legs and arms and perform a static hold. For added difficulty straighten arms and legs. Concentrate on staying “tall”

Single Leg balance:

Partner planks: 2 person or 4 person

Partner push ups: 2 person or 4 person

Try to engage kids to compete and make games / races wherever possible.

Super Bowl strength and conditioning

Take a look at this video. Todd Durkin is the trainer who works with the Green Bay Packer’s Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He also works with last year’s Super Bowl winning quarterback Drew Brees. Wow what a resume. In this interview he talks about his basic components when training an NFL quarterback. He mentions having great core strength. Any athlete generates 60% of their power from what we call the core. Think of a fishing pole. Your spine is just like that. When a fish is on the line it can bend the pole to one side or the other. When your muscles are out of balance, your spine is misaligned. All of the muscles that act on the spine need to be even distributed so that your spine is in it’s natural alignment. Each muscle group that makes up your core is a line on the pole. They have to be pulled evenly tight. Todd talks about making sure his athletes are trained symmetrically. If you only did chest exercises without strengthening your lats you will be out of balance. Your shoulders will be pulled forward because the front muscles are tighter than the back ones. Aaron Rodgers uses these principles to get him ready for an NFL season but the average person can use them in their every day lives. Symmetric training and core strength and key factors for everyone who steps foot in a gym. It doesn’t matter if you are an NFL quarterback or an average Joe.